cover image Stranger at the Wedding

Stranger at the Wedding

Barbara Hambly. Del Rey Books, $5.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38097-5

Kyra Peldyrin is a witch, estranged from her disapproving family and resigned to a life of quiet celibacy in this latest addition to Hambly's ( Dog Wizard ) Windrose Chronicles. Then unsettling premonitions convince her that her younger sister is fated to die on her wedding night and Kyra braves her parents' anger to return home. Using her magic, Kyra brings about mishaps that delay the ceremony until she can discover and counteract the curse hanging over her sister. Despite this foreboding set-up, the plot is rather sluggish for the first half of the novel, although richly detailed glimpses into the lives of Kyra's social-climbing haute bourgeois parents are engrossing and amusing. And the pace does eventually pick up: the story's final pages have all the tension and action of a good thriller. Kyra herself is a heroine in the Jane Eyre tradition, plucky, sharp-tongued and iconoclastic; and like her prototype she finds herself increasingly drawn to a man who is outwardly unattractive but nonetheless compelling. Their romance is almost incidental, though, as the story chiefly concerns itself with Kyra's melodramatic family life and with the gradual uncovering of a dark secret from the past. Hambly writes well, but the contrast between the charmingly mundane passages about domestic life in the Peldyrin household and the more overwrought accounts of Kyra's adventures makes for a somewhat disjunctive reading experience. (Apr.)